An Alabama nun died on Easter Sunday, and honoring her life and work in the service of God is a much more edifying way to spend time than parsing the latest outrageous remark by a presidential wannabe. So here we go: May Mother Angelica rest in peace – and I hope I can learn as she did how to use media to communicate the truth in love and charity.
The television network she founded, EWTN (Eternal Word Television Network), is well-known. I wonder how many people who watch it remember what preceded it.
I was a college freshman in Florida in 1977. One day in the back of the church I attended, I found a little free booklet by someone named Mother Angelica. I can’t remember the title, but it was about prayer. The brochure was a low-budget production, which didn’t surprise me when I saw that it came from an Alabama monastery. When I started reading, though, the quality of the printing didn’t matter. Here was sane and sound and sensible counsel.
As time went on, more Mother Angelica brochures appeared in the literature rack. The topics varied, but there were repeating themes: love of God, His infinite mercy, the value of human life at all stages, the need to keep growing in faith. The writing was always clear, good-humored, and down-to-earth.
That was a time in my life when by imperceptible steps I was moving from a personally-opposed-but view of abortion towards a pro-life commitment. The Alabama nun’s brochures that looked as though they’d been cranked out on a high school’s mimeograph machine were to play a subtle, indispensable role in changing my life.
I couldn’t anticipate in 1977 what kind of reach EWTN would eventually achieve. All I had were those simple little booklets. They were tiny masterpieces of communication and evangelization and pro-life coaching. They were like the snack food whose tagline was “betcha can’t eat just one” – I couldn’t read just one. I kept looking for more. And thus that Alabama nun with a gift for communication became one of the many influences that set me on the path I’ve been trying to follow for many years now.
Mother Angelica didn’t need fancy equipment to communicate. She used the tools at hand, however sophisticated or humble.
In her own words, “You see, God expects His people to do the ridiculous so He can do the miraculous.”
By the way, it turned out that the man responsible for the supply of brochures back in my college days was Father Bob, pastor of the church I attended. Father Bob is now Bishop Robert Baker of Birmingham, Alabama – the diocese where Mother Angelica lived and prayed and worked with her sisters in faith at Our Lady of the Angels Monastery.